It all seems to be happening here at the moment. One of my chickens who had been brooding on a whole collection of eggs has finally come through and seven live chicks have hatched. This, combined with the other seven which I hatched from my incubator (yes, they are still alive, and they are definitely growing fast).
I have to say, and I may have said it before, that allowing a hen to brood, hatch and raise the chicks is so much easier. I don’t have to worry about keeping the eggs warm and protected till they hatch… I don’t have to keep the newly hatched chicks warm… I don’t have to do nearly anything at all. That said, I do need to do one thing… protect them from birds of prey. I have lost too many chicks over the years to leave it to chance.
When the chicks hatched, which occurred on Saturday, I left them with their mother who spent the day on the eggs to ensure they were all able to break out of their eggs. The next morning (on Sunday, for those of you paying attention) the mother was off the nest and roaming around the garden. She was showing the little ones how to find food. While she did this I checked her nest. I checked the nest and I noticed that there was no chance that the other eggs would hatch… they were cold and obviously too late for them.
I then arranged for the mother hen and her chicks to be eating near one of my larger hutches, which I then carefully placed over the group. I now had them trapped in a place that they could be protected. With them safe I cold return to the nest and check that over more carefully. I found several eggs left unhatched, one dead chick (possibly crushed) and one which shell which had started to be broken, yet it appeared the chick was dead.
I checked the eggs and found them cold, so any life within would be dead… or so I thought. As I was crouched there, counting the eggs and taking a couple of photos for this article I noticed the egg which I thought contained the dead chick that failed to break from the shell moved. It took me a moment to realise, as it only moved a little. I picked the egg up and spoke to the chick, and it moved again… very slightly. The shell was cold and the chick was obviously close to dying. I had to make a choice, so I decided to try to help out the little one out. If I didn’t, it would surly die. I knew there was a great chance it wouldn’t live, yet I couldn’t stand idle while this little chick died… I had to do something.
I carefully peeled the outer layers of the shell from the chick, trying to break the sections which would allow it to be free. I noticed significant blood, which I worried was from the chick, yet I couldn’t stop. After a minute of work the chick was free, yet cold and tired. I placed the chick with the rest of it’s family, in the warmth of the sun. I had hoped that it would be warmed by the sun and be able to live with the rest of the flock.
This, sadly, was not meant to be. Whilst I did check on the chick every hour, and it did show signs of improving, when I checked on it later in the day the chick had died. I suspect it was due to the sun going behind the clouds a couple of hours earlier. I did try to warm it up, yet it didn’t help.
So, good news was that I have another seven chicks… the bad news is that I couldn’t save one of them.